Hebgen Lake:

Some not so hidden secrets...The fact that the Madison is such a great trout river and so much has been written about it causes many fly fishermen to overlook a couple of real gems. I am talking about Hebgen Lake and Quake Lake...both formed by the Madison. Hebgen is certainly the largest of the two being 15 miles long and 4 miles at it's widest. Hebgen is just 10 miles or so North of West Yellowstone off hwy. 191. For those of us that have spent a lot of time in the area, Hebgen is well known for it's "gulper" fishing...what's a "gulper" you say? A "gulper" is either a rainbow or a brown trout. Both can be readily found taking dry flies starting in mid to late June through August and into September. The term "gulper" comes from the sound you can hear on calm mornings as these fish cruise just below the surface and routinely rise to eat the mayflies on the surface...yes, you can often hear them "gulping". The average brown trout is in the 16"-18" range. 20" or larger is not all that uncommon. The rainbows average just an inch or two smaller. Both tricos and callibaetis are present in great numbers. My personal favorite fly here is a size 16 parachute adams. The fish will readily take them are either a dun or a spinner. When the action really gets going, you can often see dozens of fish just cruising around eating breakfast. If there are enough bugs on the surface, the fish will often cruise in a fairly straight line so it is easy to see their directing and cast your fly 8-10' in front of them. If there are not a lot of bugs on the surface, hanging a fairly small hare's ear nymph or similar about 8" under your dry fly will often be successful. I would plan to be there as early as you can as the action often starts just as the sun hits the water. Most of my fishing here has been done from a float tube or a canoe. A guide with a drift boat is also a common sight. Early in the day, you can often find the fish just cruising in a couple of feet of water very close to the bank so a float tube or boat is not always necessary. I will say that as the sun gets higher, the fish will move into deeper water so that action here does not last very long. Do not be surprised if the wind comes up around midday. When this happens, just pack it up and head down to the Henry's Fork (about an hour away via hwy. 20) or downstream to the Madison below Quake Lake (also about an hour away on hwy. 287). The very best fishing is in the Madison Arm of the lake where it is shallow enough that there are plentiful weed beds for the callibaetis to thrive.

 

Here is a video that does a good job of showing you what "gulper" fishing is all about. Credit: Phil Rowley and The New Fly Fisher. Click here to view...